By: Olkeriil Eoghan Ngirudelsang
Koror State Governor Franco Gibbons vetoed two bills last Friday, the last day before the deferred bills were to expire. One of the bills vetoed set the date for Primary Election for the Office of Governor, amends a current law that was partially invalidated by Palau Appellate Court after the last Koror State General Election. The second vetoed bill amending the succession to Office of the Governor, bill no. 11-30, LD1. In both his letters regarding these two separate bills, Governor Gibbons wrote to Speaker Alan Marbou that “I am exercising my authority to Veto the bill”.
The first bill no.11-30 LD1 amends KSPL K9-225-201 spelling out the succession order in the event of the Governor’s absence. The Koror State current law states, “If the Governor leaves the Republic of Palau for any period of time, then the governor shall designate in writing the name of a person who shall fill the office of Governor during his absence, and also shall state the date of his return….If the Governor is unavailable to perform the duties of the office of Governor for period of five (5) days or more, or if the Governor does not designate in writing the name of a person to fill the office while the Governor is off-island, then the Speaker of the Legislature shall exercise the duties and functions of the office of Governor during such time of unavailability or during such time when the governor is absent from the Republic of Palau.”
The proposed amendment states that Koror state governor shall appoint in writing a current department head whose directorship position was approved by the legislature to serve in his behalf. If the governor will remain in absence for ten (10) days then the speaker shall assume his roles and authority. If the speaker is unable or unwilling then the vice speaker followed by the floor leader are next in line to assume such duties.
The amendment vetoed by the Governor in this bill requires that the person appointed by the Governor has to be a current department head whose position was approved by the legislature. It also increased the number of days from 5 to 10 days before the Speaker, Vice Speaker or Floor Leader takes over the duties of the governor in his absence.
In his veto letter, the governor cited problems he had with the bill. He raised possible constitutional issues such as risk of separation of powers. He stated that “one of the major problems with the speaker (vice-speaker or floor leader) relates to the “double” duties as acting governor while still maintaining the position of speaker of the legislature” even though the current law in place calls for Speaker to assume the responsibilities of the governor in the event that Governor does not designate someone to perform his duties.
Another concern cited are different age qualifications of the law requiring a legislature member and or speaker to be at least 25 years old and a governor to be at least 30 years old. This bill, he said, can risk seeing an individual who is not of age and is not qualified to serve as acting governor. Gibbons further wrote that with modern technology, the governor can govern and “may still communicate with department heads almost instantaneously” and the legislature “should not be so quick to strip the governor of this constitutional authority”.
The second bill no. 11-51 vetoed, establishes “a primary election to be held on the 4th Tuesday of September” with candidates petitions to be submitted at least 90 days prior to the general election. This will mean a primary election for Koror state will take place on September 28 this year if the bill becomes law. If the bill is not passed, whoever gains the most votes at the general election in November wins.
Referring to the bill language “all registered voters of Koror who meet all other requirements shall be eligible to vote in the primary election” the governor wrote that “a voter could seek to register to vote on Monday September 27, the day before the election” while the Palau election commission is required under national law to make available for public inspection the voters registration list at least 15 days prior to elections.
A member of the KSL who spoke to Island Times revealed that “Koror State Legislature was surprised by Governor Gibbons veto because he had assured them that he will pass it as is.” According to the reporter, KSL Committee met with Governor Gibbons prior to sending him the bill for compromise, “to discuss and get his input” before submitting the bill.” “Governor Gibbons said it was good, to send it to him as is. After receiving the bill, he had it for 10 days, and on last day vetoed and sent it back without extending the same courtesy to KSL as they did to him,” expressed irate Legislator.
Sources also said that KSL met with Governor Franco Gibbons tonight to find out what happened to their discussion and agreement before the bill was passed to him. According to source, “Governor Gibbons just apologized.” The Legislature is expected to hold a session sometime this week to go over these two bills.